Tom Coughlin had one of those good news/bad news propositions Saturday night that NFL coaches experience so frequently in the preseason.
The best news was that the Giants clubbed the Jets, 26-3, in the MetLife Bowl – their annual preseason game in MetLife Stadium.
Coughlin was also impressed with his defense, which held the Jets to 148 yards, 10 first downs and one-for-13 on third-down conversion attempts.
"I thought that both defenses, the Jets defense and the Giants defense, played very well," said Coughlin, whose team is 1-1 this month.
The Giants' offense? Not so much. The Giants gained only 230 yards, totaled 12 first downs and one-upped their opponents by succeeding on two-of-13 third-down tries. So it's no surprise that Coughlin opened his news conference by praising … Lawrence Tynes, who kicked four field goals (from 35, 30, 40 and 45 yards) and booted all seven of his kickoffs into the end zone, including four for touchbacks.
"I thought that Lawrence Tynes performed very, very well tonight," Coughlin said.
The defense scored on rookie Jayron Hosley's 77-yard interception return late in the second quarter. The only other Giants' touchdown was by rookie free agent Joe Martinek, who turned a short Ryan Perrilloux pass into a 14-yard touchdown with 6:41 remaining.
Coughlin is also waiting to hear about injuries to running back Ahmad Bradshaw's hand (X-rays were negative) and Hosley's toe/foot (he wore a boot after the game).
"We certainly have a lot of work to do and a long way to go," Coughlin said. "Some people had a chance to step up tonight and played very well, particularly on the defensive side of the ball with some individual plays that stood out, offensively as well. For the second preseason game I was glad to see the improvement, particularly we saw improvement on the defensive side of the ball, but we've got a lot of work to do."
The defense made the biggest strides from the loss in Jacksonville that opened the preseason. The Giants' front was as good as advertised, registering seven sacks, including two apiece by Jason Pierre-Paul and Adewale Ojomo, one by Matt Broha, a half-sack each by Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora and one by safety Will Hill.
"As a defensive line, we were able to get some pressure tonight," Tuck said. "And that's really what we need to do if we want to be a good defense. Defensively, as a whole, we played pretty well. We were able rush the quarterback; we got four sacks. It's a step in the right direction, a plus for us."
""I think the defense played well," Pierre-Paul said. "We did a nice job of executing what coach (Perry) Fewell (the defensive coordinator) wanted us to do. The D-line played well tonight. Osi made a nice move to help me get that first sack. Osi went high and I came underneath and I just saw the quarterback there, so I hit him. On the second one, I just kind of bull-rushed, put my hands up and got him."
The Giants' starters played the entire first half, which ended with the Giants owning a 13-0 lead. The offense put together a couple of good drives in the half, but settled for Tynes field goals. The Giants rushed for only 58 yards, averaged 1.8 yards a carry and did not have a run longer than seven yards. Rookie David Wilson again led the Giants in rushing, this time with 26 yards.
Eli Manning, who completed seven of 14 passes for 62 yards, preferred to see the offensive glass as half full.
"I thought there were some good things and going against a good defense, they showed a lot of different looks," Manning said. "It's on a short week and not much game plan, I thought the guys did pretty well. There are still a few things we can fix, a few mistakes here and there. It would be good film to look at. Obviously, (we) had a couple of good drives. Couldn't get a touchdown and had to settle for field goals so that always kind of leaves a bad taste in your mouth. We wish we can finish drives. I think there's a combination and some good things and some things we need to improve on."
The big play of the game was Hosley's interception. The Giants led, 6-0, late in the second quarter when the Jets moved from their own 46 – where they got the ball after Steve Weatherford's punt was partially blocked by Aaron Maybin and traveled only 21 yards - to the Giants' 24. On third-and-10, Mark Sanchez threw to the right for Patrick Turner. But Hosley cut in front of the intended receiver, stole the ball and sprinted down the left sideline ahead of the field. The touchdown increased the Giants' lead to 13-0 with 2:03 remaining.
"All I could see was the end zone, and I was going to get there, and I did." Hosley said.
Tynes' 30-yard field goal had given the Giants a 6-0 advantage with 12:09 remaining in the first quarter.
Before the kick, the Giants traveled 39 yards in 12 plays, including Manning passes of eight and nine yards to Victor Cruz (who had five receptions for 51 yards). But Manning's throw to Cruz on third-and-10 fell incomplete and Tynes came on to kick the field goal.
The Giants scored three points on their first offensive possession, with some help from the Jets.
Weatherford punted from the Giants' 25 on what would have been a quick three-and-out. But Joe McKnight was penalized 15 yards for roughing Weatherford, giving the Giants new life – and a first down – at the 40. Two passes to Cruz totaling 30 yards helped move the Giants to the Jets' 24-yard line. But on third-and-10, Manning's pass to tight end Martellus Bennett gained only seven yards. Tynes put the game's first points on the board with a 35-yard field goal.
The offense's inability to cross the goal line didn't hurt, because the defense was so dominant. The Jets had just 47 net passing yards in the half as Pierre-Paul sacked Sanchez twice and Umenyiora and Tuck shared a sack. Tuck lost another sack when Umenyiora was penalized for being offside.
Tynes's third field goal, a 40-yarder, made it 16-0 with 11:52 left in the third quarter. The score was set up by a 49-yard pass from David Carr to rookie wide receiver Rueben Randle on the second play of the half. Randle barely had a step on cornerback Julian Posey, but out-jumped him for the ball at the Jets' 27-yard line. But the Giants came up short on third-and-12 and Tynes was summoned again.
The Jets responded with their only sustained drive of the game, a 14-play, 68-yarder against the Giants' second-team defense that ended with Josh Brown's 30-yard field goal. The longest play of the series immediately preceded the field goal, a third-down, 17-yard pass from Tim Tebow to Jeff Cumberland. But the Jets needed 20 yards for a first down, so Brown came on to score the Jets' first points.
In the fourth quarter, Tynes added a 45-yard field goal and Martinek, a free agent from Rutgers, scored the Giants' only offensive touchdown.
"I got in the flat, Perrilloux made a great read, and I was wide open," Martinek said. "Once I got the ball, I put my running back instincts into gear. Once I'm that close to the end zone, you fight for every inch and want to get in there.
"It's fun. I probably thought about that situation a million times for years. It was a great experience just to get in, and it felt really good."
So did the victory. But as Coughlin pointed out, the game demonstrated the Giants have plenty of work to do.